Friday, October 2, 2015

"Bridge of Spies"

[Originally posted on 10/18/15]

In 1957, a New York insurance lawyer, James Donovan (Tom Hanks, "Saving Mr. Banks," "Cloud Atlas"), gets pulled back into criminal law, called to represent an accused Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance).

James, an honest, principled man finds that justice can be relative, even as America showing to the world that we provide due process and capable defense for everyone.  He presses on with integrity, sticking to the principles of the U.S. constitution, doing his job as best as he can even with pressures mounting from the system and the public to seal his client's fate.

On the other side of the continent, an American spy plane went down and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is captured by the Soviet Union.  Just as the Berlin Wall is going up, an American student, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers) lands himself on the wrong side of the wall and gets thrown in prison.

The U.S. government would like James, acting as a private citizen, to negotiate a swap, Rudolf for Francis.   James takes him upon himself to add Frederic into the mix; 2-for-1 exchange.  It's a lone clandestine mission that could go wrong in many ways.  A skilled negotiator, James intuitively understands his opponents and pushes the right buttons to make things happen in tricky political waters and hostile climate.

This is a story about doing the right thing even when it doesn't suit your purpose and having respect for people for doing their job honorably for their country even when you don't agree with what they do.

Not as tension-filled as one might think, it's a serious slow-burn, surprisingly sprinkled with mordant humor. Based on real events and helmed by Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln"), "Bridge of Spies" is classily crafted, directed and acted.  Steady, measured and assured historical Cold War drama.